Build bat­ter­ies or lose jobs, auto bosses tell Europe

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Europe shouldn’t rush to aban­don the com­bus­tion en­gine and must build up its own pro­duc­tion of elec­tric car bat­ter­ies to com­pete with China, auto sup­pli­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers said at the Frankfurt mo­tor show.

The com­ments come as the fu­ture of the car has be­come a hot topic in cam­paign­ing ahead of Ger­many’s Sept. 24 elec­tion, es­pe­cially af­ter Bri­tain and France an­nounced plans to even­tu­ally phase out com­bus­tion en­gines to try to cut pol­lu­tion. Roberto Vavas­sori, pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean As­so­ci­a­tion of Au­to­mo­tive Sup­pli­ers (CLEPA), warned a head­long rush to elec­tric cars would hand busi­ness to China, which along with South Korea and Ja­pan dom­i­nate bat­tery pro­duc­tion for such ve­hi­cles.

“We need to pro­vide a sen­si­ble tran­si­tion pe­riod that doesn’t give un­wanted gifts to our Chi­nese friends,” he said, es­ti­mat­ing Euro­pean au­tomak­ers were pay­ing 4,000-7,000 eu­ros ($5,000-8,000) to China for bat­ter­ies for ev­ery elec­tric car. Vavas­sori called for a Euro­pean drive to de­velop the next gen­er­a­tion of bat­tery cells. He said car­mak­ers and politi­cians should look at other ways of cut­ting ve­hi­cle emis­sions too, such as more ef­fi­cient en­gines and syn­thetic fu­els.

Ger­many’s Daim­ler and Volk­swa­gen both an­nounced plans on the eve of the Frankfurt show to ac­cel­er­ate their shift to elec­tric cars. The head of Volk­swa­gen’s core auto di­vi­sion said yes­ter­day that Euro­pean in­dus­try should come to­gether to cre­ate a re­gional sup­plier of bat­ter­ies.

“For the ini­tial phase, I still feel in good hands with the Korean sup­pli­ers, but I would ap­pre­ci­ate if com­pe­ti­tion were to grow and a Euro­pean con­sor­tium would emerge,” VW brand Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Her­bert Diess told Reuters.

“Europe at risk”

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel has raised the pos­si­bil­ity of state sup­port to bring chip and bat­tery pro­duc­tion back to Europe and her So­cial Demo­crat chal­lenger Martin Schulz has also called for in­vest­ment in cell pro­duc­tion in Ger­many. The stakes are high, with the auto in­dus­try as a whole pro­vid­ing around 12.6 mil­lion jobs in the Euro­pean Union, or about 5.7 per­cent of the to­tal.

Trade unions have been put­ting pres­sure on man­u­fac­tur­ers to make elec­tric cars in ex­ist­ing fac­to­ries and in­vest in bat­tery pro­duc­tion in Europe, rather than out­sourc­ing the work to Asia.

“Self-con­tained value chains are a cen­tral pil­lar of our in­dus­trial model and play a big role in the suc­cess of the Ger­man econ­omy,” Jo­erg Hof­mann, pres­i­dent of the IG Me­tall union, told steel and car in­dus­try mem­bers yes­ter­day.

CLEPA’s Vavas­sori said Europe was lag­ging be­hind in the pro­duc­tion of sen­sors and mi­crochips, as well as bat­ter­ies, and there was a risk in re­ly­ing on Chi­nese sup­plies given geopo­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity.

“We need pro­duc­tion in Europe for ve­hi­cles of the fu­ture, or we put all Europe at risk,” he said.

Many in the car in­dus­try want gov­ern­ments to fo­cus on set­ting tar­gets to bring down car­bon diox­ide emis­sions, rather be­ing pre­scrip­tive about quo­tas for elec­tric cars. “Man­dat­ing cer­tain per­cent­ages of cer­tain tech­nolo­gies doesn’t take us to the best so­lu­tion,” said Daim­ler boss Di­eter Zetsche, who cur­rently chairs ACEA, the main Euro­pean car­mak­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion. Yes­ter­day, ACEA of­fered to fur­ther cut CO2 emis­sions by 2030, al­beit de­pen­dent on up­take of elec­tric cars.

Ger­many’s Robert Bosch, the world’s big­gest auto sup­plier, is keep­ing its op­tions open, op­ti­miz­ing the com­bus­tion en­gine and also ex­plor­ing syn­thetic fu­els, which could use ex­ist­ing fill­ing sta­tions and en­gines. “This is a faster way of lim­it­ing global warm­ing,” said Bosch chief ex­ec­u­tive Volk­mar Den­ner. “We are do­ing this along­side elec­tric ve­hi­cles.” —Reuters

FRANKFURT: Two men take a closer look at a Audi R8 V10 plus on the sec­ond me­dia day of the IAA Mo­tor Show in Frankfurt yes­ter­day.

FRANKFURT: Spec­ta­tors visit the hall of Ger­man Volk­swa­gen group in­clud­ing cars of VW, Audi and Seat at the Frankfurt Auto Show IAA in Frankfurt am Main, Ger­many yes­ter­day.

FRANKFURT: A Re­nault R S 2027 Vi­sion For­mula 1 con­cept car is pre­sented at the Frankfurt Auto Show IAA in Frankfurt am Main yes­ter­day.—AFP photos

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